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  • Daniel Botkin

Believing Into The Son of God

If I say the words “For God so loved the world,” most of you reading this could probably finish the statement. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

This is John 3:16, probably the most widely known verse of the Bible. If you look at a Gideon’s Bible in a motel room, you will learn that this verse has been translated into over 1100 languages. The introductory pages of a Gideon’s Bible includes the text of many of these translations of John 3:16.

John 3:16 is probably the most popular verse of the Bible because it succinctly expresses the basic gospel message in a single verse that consists of just twenty-five words in the English language. Of those twenty-five words, the word that I want to focus on here is the word in.

Why focus on a little two-letter preposition? Because even small, two-letter words are important to the meaning of a statement. Consider on and in, prepositions that differ by only one vowel. These words are very similar in spelling and in pronunciation and sometimes similar in meaning. There is not much difference between “He arrived on time” and “He arrived in time.” But there is a big difference between “The airplane pilot is on the ground” and “The airplane pilot is in the ground.” A pilot in the ground is probably dead, but a pilot on the ground is probably alive.

A small preposition like in can make a big difference in the meaning of a statement. Therefore it is important to consider the word translated “in” in John 3:16.

What does the BIble mean when it says “whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life”? I have heard unrepentant drunkards and fornicators assure me that they have eternal life because they “believed in Jesus” and “all you have to do is believe in Him.” Some of them could even quote John 3:16. But this understanding is seriously flawed, because there are other Bible verses that plainly state that unrepentant drunkards and fornicators will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9f; Gal. 5:19-21).

Sinners need to understand that the only kind of “believing” or “faith” that will bring eternal life is faith that produces good fruit.

A person’s good works do not purchase eternal life. The blood of Yeshua (Jesus) is the price that purchases eternal life for those who believe in Him. But if good works do not follow a person’s profession of faith, then that person’s faith is dead. This is what the Bible says in James chapter 2. Three times in this chapter, James says “faith without works is dead” (vss. 17, 20, 26).

If a person claims to believe in Jesus, yet continues living a sinful lifestyle, that person has the same kind of “faith” that the devils have: “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19).

“Daniel, it sounds like you are just giving a basic salvation message here. Don’t you think your readers already understand this?”

Yes, I suspect that most of my readers already understand these things. But even if you already understand these things, this information I am presenting might help you to better articulate the real gospel message to sinners who need to hear it. So please read on.

Genuine Biblical faith is always accompanied by repentance. Repentance means more than merely feeling sorry and remorseful for your sins. It means being sorry enough to stop living a sinful life. To repent means to stop living a life of disobedience and start living a life of obedience to the will of God as expressed in His commandments. Your obedience is not the thing that purchases your pardon. Obedience is simply your response of gratitude for the pardon that you freely received, and the proof that your faith is genuine.

Repentance and faith can be thought of as two sides of the same coin, as illustrated by the following verses in which repentance and faith are paired together:

l “Repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15).

l “Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Yeshua” (Acts 20:21).

l “Repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God” (Heb. 6:1).

l “You repented not that you might believe” (Matt. 21:32).

“But Daniel, what about John 3:16? That verse says nothing about needing to repent. It just says eternal life is given to ‘whosoever believeth in Him.’ Isn’t just believing in Jesus enough to guarantee eternal life?”

Yes, believing in Jesus is enough to guarantee eternal life, but only if you understand what the Bible means when it says you must “believe in Him.” Let’s consider what it means to believe in someone or something.

If a man says that he believes in life on other planets, or in the existence of fairies or elves, or in the existence of Bigfoot or mermaids or something like that, this man’s belief will not necessarily affect his life in a major, dramatic way. But when the Bible speaks about believing in Yeshua, it means far more than just believing in His existence and believing that the stories written about Him in the New Testament are true. An unrepentant sinner can believe those things and still die in his sins and perish.

Believing in Yeshua could more accurately be called believing into Him. That sounds awkward in modern English, but it is a more accurate translation of what the original Greek text actually says. As a matter of fact, in the very first English translation of the New Testament (John Wyclif’s translation in 1380), John 3:16 was translated “whosoever believeth into Him.”

Why did Wyclif translate it that way? Because this is what the Greek text literally says. Like English, Greek has a preposition which means “in” (en) and another preposition which means “into” (eis). John 3:16 uses eis, not en. Therefore a person must do more than just believe “in” Jesus; he must believe into Him.

Consider the differences between in and into. The word in simply tells you the location of someone or something. “The man is in the house.” This is a static, motionless statement. No action is implied. But the word into has the idea of motion and movement embedded in it. With into we are required to use an action verb: “The man went into the house.” This statement tells us that the man was previously outside the house, and he moved toward the house, and he stepped into the house, thereby placing himself inside the house. That is how he got in the house.

A man is not in the house until after he crosses the threshold and steps into the house. In the same way, a man does not believe in the Messiah until after he crosses the threshold and believes into Him.

There are many people who think they “believe in Jesus” merely because they believe in His existence and believe that the stories written about Him in the Bible are true. But it is possible to believe true information about Him without ever having believed into Him.

Some people are like a man just outside the only house of safety. They might be at the threshold of the door, but they are on the wrong side of the threshold, because they have not yet taken that final step of repentance and faith to carry them over the threshold and into the house of salvation.

There are several Old Testament stories that illustrate this spiritual truth. To be saved from the wrath of God, Noah and his family had to do more than verbally proclaim their belief that the Ark was God’s provision for survival. They had to step into the Ark. The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, even uses the word eis in Genesis 7:7, where Noah and his family went “into the ark,” eis ten kiboton. If they had stayed on the loading ramp just outside the door of the Ark, they would have perished in the Flood.

Moses and the children of Israel had to do more than verbally proclaim that the blood of the Passover lambs would protect them from God’s judgment. They had to step into the houses which were marked with the blood of the Passover lambs. If they had sat outside the door, on the wrong side of the threshold, they would have died.

Rahab and her family had to do more than verbally proclaim their belief that the scarlet cord would protect them from death. They had to step into Rahab’s house.

An Israelite who accidentally killed someone had to do more than verbally proclaim that a city of refuge would protect him from the dead man’s family, the “avenger of blood.” He had to step into a city of refuge and stay there. If he stepped outside the city of refuge, the avenger could slay him. Abner killed Joab’s brother Asahel in self-defense. Later, Joab killed Abner in revenge. Where did Joab kill Abner? Right outside the gate of Hebron, one of the cities of refuge.

You can be at the very doorway to salvation, yet be on the wrong side of the threshold. You can be close enough to the door to hear the music and singing coming from inside the city. You can be close enough to hear people talking about the Scriptures. You might even join in and sing along with the music and participate in the discussions. You might even talk to the Lord Himself, as several would-be disciples did in the Gospels. If you are at the very threshold of salvation but have not yet believed into the Messiah, it is easy to forget that you are still outside the house. It is easy to imagine that you are inside the house of the redeemed.

How many people have died at the threshold of true faith, but on the wrong side of the threshold because they never truly repented? How many have died at the threshold like Abner died at the gate of Hebron, just barely outside the place of safety?

“And the king [David] lamented over Abner, and said, Died Abner as a fool dieth?” (2 Sam. 3:33). If Abner died as a fool for being on the wrong side of the threshold of the city of refuge, how much bigger a fool is a man who dies at the threshold of Messiah, the gate to our eternal City of Refuge?

“Daniel, do you think there are many people who think they are saved, but are not really saved? Or are there only a few such people?”

That’s not for me to say, but let’s consider those words many and few. Yeshua used these two words when He concluded the Sermon on the Mount. When He spoke about the wide gate and the broad way that leadeth to destruction, He said “many there be which go in thereat.” When He spoke about the strait gate and the narrow way which leadeth unto life, He said “few there be that find it.”

After He talked about people being deceived by false prophets, He said, “Many will say to Me on that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?”

To these “many” deceived people who had prophesied and cast out devils and done many wonderful works in the name of Jesus (or maybe even in the name of Yeshua), He says “I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.” (See Matthew 7:13ff.)

“But Daniel, is it possible Yeshua was just using the words many and few as hyperbole, just using extreme exaggeration as a literary device to emphasize a point?”

Maybe. But I wouldn’t count on it. In the days of Noah there were only eight people from the entire population of the world who were saved. Were the words many and few hyperbole in the days of Noah? No. And “as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matt. 24:37).

It is obvious that those people who say “Lord, Lord” to Jesus expected to inherit everlasting life from Him. They are stunned to hear Him say, “I never knew you. Depart from Me.” They thought they were saved, but they were deceived. Any conversion they had experienced was a counterfeit conversion, something born of their own wishful thinking and overactive imagination, perhaps solidified by strong delusion sent by God because of their refusal to love the knowledge of the truth. (See 2 Thessalonians 2:7-12.)

As I and others have pointed out before, the Greek word translated “iniquity” in Matthew 7:23 (“depart from Me, ye that work iniquity”) is anomia, “without law; lawlessness.” Anyone who has any animosity or hostility toward God’s Law should tremble at this statement.

Many years ago I was talking to a Christian couple. I was calmly explaining, in a polite, non-judgmental way, the reasons I believe in keeping the seventh-day Sabbath and other Old Testament commandments which are generally ignored by most Christians. The woman became belligerent and began expressing animosity, not only toward me but also toward the Law of God.

I pointed out to her that she needed to be careful, because these commandments were God’s ideas, and if you think these commandments are ridiculous, what does that say about the God who gave them? I told her that when Jesus tells the deceived people to depart from Him on Judgment Day, it is because they were antinomians. They rejected God’s Law.

“How do you know that you will not be in this great multitude of deceived people who thought they were saved?” I asked her. “How do you know you are not deceived? If a person is deceived, he doesn’t realize he is deceived. How do you know you are not deceived?”

My question was met with silence.

But let’s not limit deception to Torah-hating Christians. Let’s consider the possibility that even Torah-loving Messianic people can be deceived. On that day, many professing Christians will say, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?”

It is very possible that on that day many professing Messianic people will say, “Lord, Lord, did we not correctly pronounce thy name in Hebrew? And in thy name did we not cast out pork and shellfish from our diet? And in thy name did we not follow the Biblical calendar, and attach fringes to our garments, and follow many wonderful commandments?”

Obeying the Torah is important, but it is possible to live a strict, Torah-observant life and yet be lost. I know of two strict, Torah-observant Jews who were atheists, and there are probably more out there. There are probably even some strict, Torah-observant Messianic people who are atheists, or at least living their lives as if God does not exist.

“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren,” John wrote (1 John 3:14). Yeshua said to the religious leaders of His day, “The publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.” And I say unto you that the Sunday Christians who excel in loving the brethren will enter the kingdom of God before Sabbath keepers who do not love the brethren.

“But Daniel, those Sunday Christians are blind to the importance of the commandment to keep the Sabbath!”

True. And many Messianic people are blind to the importance of the commandment to love the brethren. So tell me: Which son is the greater disappointment to his Father, a son who keeps the Sabbath on the right day but treats his brothers with scorn and contempt because they differ with him about some non-essential doctrines, or a son who does not keep the Sabbath because he does not understand it, but he excels in brotherly love? Which of the twain is the greater disappointment to his Father? John gives us the answer:

“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 John 4:20).

This is a rhetorical question. The answer is obvious. A man cannot love the invisible God if he hates his visible brother. How deeply do you love God? No more deeply than you love the brethren. The depth or the shallowness of your love for the brethren reveals the depth or the shallowness of your love for God.

I am not anyone’s judge, but when I see the way that some mean-spirited Messianics mistreat one another and sow strife and contention and division, it makes me wonder if such people are really, truly saved.

“Give diligence to make your calling and election sure,” Peter says (2 Pet. 1:10). If you are unsure of your salvation, seek the Lord until you have the inward witness, that “Blessed Assurance” that you have believed into the Son of God. Repent of any hostility toward God’s Law or toward the brethren. Repent and believe into the Messiah and enjoy the everlasting life He freely gives you.

| DB

Image: When I See the Blood (Detail) by Daniel Botkin from his Exodus art gallery. See all of Daniel’s art on his art website,

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